Blog Posts by Steve Mertl

  • RCMP announce charges against Dutch man in Amanda Todd case

    Crown prosecutors in British Columbia have laid five charges against a man arrested in the Netherlands in connection with the online extortion of 15-year-old Amanda Todd, which led to her suicide in 2012.

    RCMP told a news conference Thursday evening that the man, who hasn't been identified, faces single counts of extortion, Internet luring, criminal harassment, possession of child pornography and possession of child porn for the purpose of distribution.

    Insp. Paulette Friel, chief of operations at Coquitlam RCMP, said her officers began investigating in December 2010, after Amanda and her parents came forward with allegations of harassment and extortion.

    The investigation mushroomed after Todd's suicide, its scope expanding "in ways we could not have imagined," Friel said.

    The case eventually involved the RCMP's major crimes section and the national child-exploitation units of Canada and the United Kingdom, she said. The RCMP had 30 investigators at work who eventually helped identify

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  • Halifax high school student the latest teen to face child-porn charges for sexting

    Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers have issued warnings about the dangers of sexting for teens.Charges laid against a Halifax-area high school student is the latest evidence that police in Canada are serious about going after sexting teens, even if some of the kids still aren't serious about the risk.

    The Halifax Chronicle Herald reports a student at Auburn Drive High School in the suburb of Cole Harbour has been charged with possessing and distributing child pornography.

    Police said the 17-year-old was arrested April 11 but has been released from custody and is scheduled to appear in Halifax youth court May 8.

    The investigation began Jan. 9 after police received a complaint from the school. A 16-year-old female student told school staff a male student had shared a partially nude photo of her without her consent, the Chronicle Herald said.

    Police said the images were distributed to other students and investigators seized a number of cell phones.

    "In this case, all I can say is images were distributed in a child pornography sense by a 16-year-old male [who has since turned 17],"

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  • Rob Ford, Justin Trudeau taking heat for selfies outside Flaherty’s state funeral

    When it comes to politics I'm a knee-jerk moderate, so it's very rare I find myself agreeing with the folks over at Sun News Network. It happens about as often as the lunar eclipse we had this week.

    But we're more or less on the same page over word that Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford took time to pose for photos with people outside Jim Flaherty's funeral.

    Commentators on the conservative-oriented news network especially took Trudeau to task for leaning in for a selfie on his way into the solemn church service for the former finance minister, who died suddenly of a heart attack last week.

    A smiling Trudeau is shown gazing into a woman's smart phone before heading into the Toronto's St. James Cathedral.

    Ford, a close family friend of Flaherty (who once publicly broke into tears over the mayor's drug problems), also allowed himself to be photographed in a shot that went up on Instagram.

    [ Related: Obama’s Mandela ‘selfie’ controversy overblown: photographer ]

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  • Good Samaritans rescue baby boy pinned under car

    Chances are a six-month-old boy who was struck by a car Tuesday won't have any memory of the accident that nearly cost him his young life or the guardian angels who rescued him.

    The baby was being pushed in a stroller by his mother as they crossed an intersection in Nanaimo, B.C., on Tuesday when they were struck by a car running a red light, the Nanaimo Daily News reports.

    The baby, strapped into a car seat plopped into the stroller, was hurled into the street, ending up under the car.

    The mother cried for someone to help her screaming baby. That's when passersby quickly leapt into action.

    [ Related: Officers and bystanders rescue 6-year-old boy pinned under car ]

    Around five people grabbed the rear end of the new model Volkswagen Jetta and lifted it off the ground so another could pull the baby from underneath.

    The child suffered only minor brushes and scraps but was kept in hospital overnight for observation as a precaution, RCMP Const. Gary O'Brien said. Perhaps the car seat did

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  • Manitoba court system opens the door to TV cameras, but just a crack

    Television cameras are inching their way into Canada's courtrooms, ever so slowly.

    A Manitoba judge's verdict in a murder case was streamed live Wednesday afternoon, the first time ever the province's court system has allowed such a crucial element of a criminal case to be televised, CBC News reported.

    It's part of a pilot program to test the viability of cameras at all levels of the province's court system.

    Associate Chief Justice Shane Perlmutter found Cassandra Knott not guilty of second-degree murder in the 2011 death of her husband, CBC News said.

    The camera focused only on the judge, who heard the case without a jury, as he delivered his ruling. Media outlets, including the Winnipeg Free Press, relayed the live stream.

    [ Related: Woman found not guilty of murder in Manitoba's first televised verdict ]

    The experiment has the backing of the chief judges of all three levels of Manitoba's court system, the Free Press said.

    "Courts must be open to the public," Court of Appeal Chief

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  • Another Vancouver bus driver attacked; how can we protect them?

    Apparently B.C. transit authorities' efforts to curb assaults on its drivers isn't sinking in.

    An awareness campaign called "Don't Touch the Operator" was launched at the end of March after a series of vicious assaults on bus drivers in Metro Vancouver.

    But two weeks in, cameras recorded another one, this time involving a woman in a wheelchair.

    According to CTV News, the driver had stopped to pick up passengers on the Downtown Eastside on Tuesday afternoon and was lowering the bus's ramp to allow the woman to roll on. But he changed his mind when she began acting aggressively.

    “She apparently was very agitated, started hurling verbal abuse at the bus driver," transit police spokeswoman Anne Drennan told Global News. "It apparently was about another bus on that line, and its driver, but nonetheless she was very abusive.”

    But as he was raising the ramp, surveillance video shows woman leaping out of her wheelchair and, still holding onto it, launching herself onto the bus, where she

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  • Caught on video: Near-miss between cop, longboarders now under review

    For most visitors to Vancouver who gaze across Burrard Inlet to the North Shore, it's a view filled with leafy neighbourhoods marching halfway up the mountainsides of West and North Vancouver.

    But longboarders see something else: Heaven, the longboarding equivalent of surfing meccas such as Australia's Gold Coast or Hawaii's Pipeline.

    West Vancouver is especially attractive, with posh homes lining steep, twisting streets that see little traffic. Residents have to keep a wary eye for longboarders whizzing by at speeds sometimes approaching 90 kilometres an hour.

    Longboarding is illegal in the municipality but the $45 first-time-offender fine hardly seems to discourage enthusiasts.

    West Vancouver police have tried persuading longboarders to stop these clandestine runs, even participating in a meeting last year to look at the possibility of temporary road closures to accommodate the sport.

    [ Related: Longboarders at Higher Risk for Injury Than Skateboarders ]

    But I suspect part of the

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  • Veteran senior Mountie charged with underage sex offences dating back to 1982

    Insp. Ronald Patrick Makar, shown here in 1994, spent most of his career in Saskatchewan.

    The RCMP is reeling after a senior officer was charged with underage sex offences dating back to 1982, when he was a young constable in Saskatchewan.

    Insp. Ronald Patrick Makar, the chief operations officer at the Wood Buffalo Detachment in Fort McMurray, Alta., was arrested at his job Tuesday, the Mounties said in a news release reproduced by the Regina Leader-Post.

    The Mounties said they launched an investigation after the alleged victim came forward last April and said she'd been assaulted in the summer of 1982 at a home in Carlyle, Sask. Makar, a 34-year RCMP veteran, was serving in Carlyle in his first year as a constable at the time, CBC News said.

    Makar, 54, is charged with one count of sexual intercourse with a female without her consent and one count of intercourse with a female under age 14 under Criminal Code sections in force at the time. The current equivalent charges would be sexual assault.

    [ Related: RCMP dogged by yet another sexual-harassment suit ]

    Constance Haduik,

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  • Rampant price-gouging, reckless driving prompts Ontario to propose tow truck regulations

    I wonder if the long, harsh winter Canadians just endured has anything to do with the Ontario government's move to crack down on the province's tow-truck business.

    Plenty of drivers probably found themselves on the hook, so to speak, after sliding off some icy road or finding their vehicle had simply chilled out.

    Whether the timing's coincidental or not, Ontario Consumer Services Minister Tracy MacCharles has announced changes to the Consumer Protection Act to impose regulations on the towing and vehicle storage industries aimed at eliminating price gouging, the Toronto Star reports.

    There's always been a Wild West element to the largely unregulated tow-truck business, with drivers racing each other to reach crash sites and holding illegally parked vehicles for ransom after they're towed.

    [ Related: Killed tow truck driver's friends praise tabled move-over law ]

    Globe and Mail automotive columnist Peter Cheney, writing last November, described tow trucks lurking near Highway 401

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  • Digital Privacy Act not so good for privacy, critics say

    It's funny how laws proposed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government sometimes have titles that critics say mean the exact opposite of what they claim to do.

    The Fair Elections Act is being slammed on all sides as being anything but fair, and now the, government's Digital Privacy Act is also being nominated for the doublespeak roll of honour.

    Bill S-4 actually amends the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, but Digital Privacy Act has a more consumer-friendly ring to it. It aims to crack down on identity theft by making it a criminal offence to traffic in someone's identity documents.

    [ Related: Data privacy shapes up as a next-generation trade barrier ]

    The law, which is receiving first reading in the Senate, requires businesses and other organizations to tell consumers when their personal information has been lost or stolen via hacking. Failure to do so can result in fines of up to $100,000 under the new legislation.

    All that's good, but

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